James Ebdon-Jackson

Written by the Creative Director at Adludio, James Ebdon-Jackson.

Human beings and creativity are so intimately linked that one might not exist without the other. The success of our species rests entirely on our creativity; our ability to shape the world around us, to solve problems outside of our comfort zones, and to adapt to new challenges. Some animals flirt with creativity but no other species takes the concept to the heights that humanity does.

So as long as homo sapiens have been around we’ve likely been drawing in the mud and telling stories. We can see some of those first forays into creativity on the walls of caves. 

Cave Bear paintings in the Chauvet cave (est 30,000 years old)

Cave Bear paintings in the Chauvet cave (est 30,000 years old)

Maybe there are lost cave painting advertisements. “The local shaman will bless your hunts in exchange for 5 handfuls of berries.” We don’t know. But we do know that adverts really took off once we could print on paper.

Bronze tablet from the Song dynasty China (960-1279)

Bronze tablet from the Song dynasty China (960-1279)

There were adverts printed in the first gazettes in the early 16th Century in Venice, usually for books and snake oil medicines. It took many generations to move from rock to paper. It took fewer to move from paper to screens, but still a long time. In 1955 the first ever TV ad in the UK aired on ITV. It was for Gibbs SR toothpaste. A little dated looking, but not the worst toothpaste ad I’ve seen.

So far in our timeline, creative has been a largely passive affair. Screens made creative more dynamic and interesting, but still adverts were consumed by sitting back and looking at them. Once we entered the age of the internet, the foundation was laid for this to change. Computers are fundamentally interactive devices and once we progressed to the point of web browsers and a PC in every home, advertising was firmly along for the ride. 

We didn’t get away from passive advertising for a while though, even now most adverts that we see online are just there for you to look at, not for you to engage with. Mobile devices pushed us forward in terms of providing a more interactive canvas, but despite all the possibilities that a touchscreen and its myriad sensors allow, still most ad creative is there just for you to just look at.

Moving away from passive creative and towards engagement is a step into the future. Allowing a user to interact with a product elicits a sense of closeness and ownership. We all know that the best way to learn isn’t by reading a textbook, it’s by getting stuck in and actually doing the thing. Studies show that if you add touch to the experience then it stays with you even more. This is called kinesthetic learning, and crucially for our future, this effect exists even when interacting with digital representations of real world things.

Within a generation, the world went from being connected by fixed telephone lines and TV news shows that air at a certain time, to being connected constantly, everyone to each other, with all of our collective knowledge accessible on demand. The internet made that possible, and then smartphones wove that connection intimately into our lives. So much so that some sociologists make the case that we are already cyborgs, just relying on a slow data transfer system ie typing into our phones and then seeing with our eyes, rather than the direct to brain neural interface that will soon follow.

Imagine what our connectedness will look like in another generation’s time. We won’t be able to fully predict the road ahead, but we can see some of it approaching from the distance... 

Right now we have magic windows which we can use to look into the digital realm. These windows used to be in fixed locations, but now we carry them around with us wherever we go. Screens connected to the internet allow us to peer into the connected world of the internet and look wherever we wish. We can only look through the window for now, but soon we’ll remove the wall altogether and these two worlds will mesh together.

Virtual reality headsets are in their infancy, but they do exist, and they’re pretty impressive. Put on an (admittedly cumbersome) headset and your mind is transported somewhere that doesn’t exist. We can imagine VR becoming incrementally better to the point that the artificial places we visit are more and more convincing, and if we’re interacting with people in VR and sharing experiences with them then we might start to modify our definition of words like “meet” and even “real”.

If VR is in its infancy then AR is a newborn. Augmented reality is the idea of digital elements being placed seamlessly in the real world. There are headsets that exist today that can place invading robots in your living room that stick convincingly to the floor and duck behind the sofa. 

For now, these are little more than gimmicks and demos, but just imagine when the internet is primarily experienced through devices like these. Smartphones allowed us to carry around the magic mirror to the digital world, these new technologies will allow us to blend the real and the digital imperceptibly.

What does this mean for creative? It means the industry needs to break bad habits fast! 

It’s one thing to be faced with unimaginative garish banner ads in your web browser, but quite another to have them slapped on everything in the real world. Otherwise, we end up in a nightmare future like this …

How do we avoid this neon hellscape? We invest in creative. People remember great TV ads. They had best of countdown shows about them on channel 4 … every week! Advertising in the age of the internet can be incredibly exciting if we embrace what makes current and future technology so great. Reaching the right people who are interested in the message is of course very important, but so is the creative itself. Interactivity and engagement are key to resonating with the users of today and tomorrow.

Imagine yourself in 5 years time walking down the street. You’re wearing the latest AR smart device, let’s call it the Apple iPatch. You’re being directed to your destination by dynamic markers on the floor, and your reminders app pops up with your shopping list when you walk past Sainsbury's. Lots of the shop signs are moving holographic images; branding has moved back to 3D realism since AR burst on the scene. Then you see a small creature in a yellow hat run to a vending machine and jump up, trying to scramble into the drinks slot but he’s not tall enough. He waves to you to come over and help. You bend down and let him jump on your hand then lift him to the slot, which he promptly scrambles into and disappears. It’s glowing… 

You lift the flap, and inside there’s a whole world in there.

The little creatures are all working the machines and getting it ready. They’re waving to you and gesturing you to swipe your watch on the vending machine so they can fill the bottle and send it on its way.

This would be a personal little journey that you go on. A mini adventure! Engaging with the brand in a fun way that you’ll remember fondly, and on top of that could you resist buying a coke?

In evolution, the best-adapted solutions thrive, and the old solutions die. If we’re heading towards a world that will blend the digital and the physical domains so fully that the lines become blurred, then people involved in creative need to be ready for that. The creative of the future will be more interactive, more personal, more engaging. But the future doesn’t appear overnight, we’ll get there incrementally. We can’t create super-rich interactive AR journeys just yet, but we can commit to engaging compelling ad experiences using everything available to us now.

If you're interested to learn how to evolve and future-proof your mobile ads, drop us a line at hello@adludio.com. We'd love to chat!